2021 Fieldwork Festival Adapts; Research Celebrated and Winners Selected

Student winners selected in MALAS, MDP, and Pre-Dissertation categories

2021 Fieldwork Festival Adapts; Research Celebrated and Winners Selected

March 24, 2021

Adapting to the challenges of the pandemic

Normally, March brings together students, faculty, and guests to the George A. Smathers Library to witness and celebrate the impact of fieldwork in Latin American Studies. Graduate students meet for an interactive workshop, and then everyone gathers for a public exhibit of presentations, with food, beverages, and bestowment of awards.

But since the pandemic hit last March, the Fieldwork Festival has had to adapt to the online context.

“It was important to us that we still find a way to hold the festival,” says Professor Catherine Tucker, Associate Director of Academic Affairs and Fieldwork Festival organizer. “The students deserve the chance to share their fantastic research and exchange ideas, especially because they had faced so many unique challenges during the past year.”

The second annual Research Festival

This year, there were few fieldwork projects to present; most students had to adapt their research to online and archival methods due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. So the 2021 Research Festival invited graduate students to share their research through virtual presentations, available for public viewing for a full week before the award ceremony. Fifteen students participated, creatively adapting presentations of their research to the online environment and meeting the challenge: “How can you best engage the viewer in your work?”

Nearly every participant incorporated audio and video into their presentation, taking the opportunity to make poster presentations more dynamic and engaging. The judges on the awards selection committee, Professors Mark Brenner, Richard Kernaghan, and Juliana Restrepo Sanin, found it difficult to make final decisions given the high quality of the submissions.

Moreover, the students still gathered, via Zoom, to share their insights and reflect with one another on the challenges and successes of conducting research during the pandemic. There was also the opportunity for mentorship, with the chance for pre-fieldwork students to ask more experienced students questions about planning their own research.

“Overall, I think it was a great success, even without considering the circumstances of this year,” says Tucker. “I’m immensely proud of the work these students did, and the ways they rose to meet the myriad challenges of the pandemic.”

Festival Prize Winners

After review by the panel of judges, first and second prizes were awarded across three categories: Masters in Latin American Studies thesis research, Masters in Sustainable Development Practice thesis research, and pre-dissertation work. A grand prize was also awarded. View the winning presentations and posters below.


Grand prize: Frances Melgarejo
Title: Tribal Survival Through Cultural Revival: How a Nearly Decimated Amazonian Tribe Resurrected Its Cultural Heritage to Stay United


First prize: Treethep Srisa-nga 
Title: Imagining Bolívar and Bolivarianism: Building Venezuela with Textbooks, 1959-2013

View Treethep's poster here: Research Festival 2021 - Treethep Srisa-nga

Second prize: Patrick James
Title: Violence, Endurance: On the Ethnographic Salience of Colombia’s Gótico Tropical


First prize: Caroline Baylor
Title: Evaluation and Improvement of Polk County Waste and Recycling’s Online Service Request System

Second prize: Yeyetsi Maldonado & Brenda Lugano 

Title (Yeyetsi Maldonado): Traditional Charcoal Production in Agroforestry Systems: What Can We Learn from Global Experiences?

View Yeyetsi's poster here: Research Festival 2021 - Yeyetsi Maldonado

Title (Brenda Lugano): Lamu Conservation: A Case Study Understanding Community Participation in Lamu Spatial Plan, Kenya

View Brenda's poster here: Research Festival 2021 - Brenda Lugano


First prize: Nicholas Gengler
Title: Differences in Scale of Effect Between Metrics of Habitat Configuration and Composition

Second prize: Hermudananto
Title: Logging Practice in Indonesian Natural Forests: Adoption of Personal Protective Equipment Associated with Worker Safety